Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Stormy times

After days of 35 and 38 degrees we woke at 4.45am to thunder and lightning which rolled around for an hour gave a couple of monster cracks which sent Tim scuttling out of his basket and into my arms - and put the electricity out. That meant dh had his trek downstairs to flip the switch again. Those last two cracks were the end of it but we have half the sky dark and grey and the other bright blue. Odd. Do you remember I sent a sock up into a tree and it stuck there? Well, the wind has brought the sock down to ground again in the last half hour. So we don't know if we're going to get a thunderstorm or not - so far there has been no rain - also very odd.

The picture was an early morning shot a couple of days ago when the sun was rising and lifting the mist off the lake.

Sunday, 28 June 2015


Friday 19th June saw my first test of the pool, and Saturday my first swim. Both days were hot and sunny, forecast to be 25 and 26 degrees respectively. The hay bales have been collected and two of the asparagus rows have been dug over and what we think are fertilizer pellets seeded in the soil. All done by tractor! The clover patch is now over eighteen inches high and the sweet corn closer to two feet. When we first arrived, they were tiny green sprouts in large rows across the curve of a hill or meadow. The hay meadow itself now has bright green grass over a foot high. We watched from the balcony room, with the door closed as a hare bounced across it the other evening. Tim saw it, barked and 100 yards away the hare turned, ears straight up and stared in our direction.

The greenery is rampant here, so we’ve almost completed a cut-back of the drive so we can drive in without the car being scraped by brambles and young saplings. Then its off to the river. When Tim goes river-running, which he does several times a day when it is hot, he disappears through a tunnel in the nettles and other greenery and all I hear is the splash-splash as he runs up and down the river. I see his head occasionally as he jumps to see if I’m still there, but otherwise, he is out of sight. So in two of his favourite spots, I’ve cut back the greenery and can now see the river and Tim having fun. Back home we’d call this river a stream. It’s rarely wider than six or eight feet and though there are deeper pools and stretches, Tim runs where the water is less than chest high on him and there is a gravel bottom. Until he stirs it up, the water is lovely and clear with turquoise dragon flies zooming about.
Monday 22nd June. The longest day passed without incident if you ignore the fact that the Black family were almost extinguished. Picture us walking Tim down a narrow road towards a classic + crossroads. Brilliant sunny morning shortly after 9.30am. Out of the trees to the south blasts a white car which charges straight over the crossroads without stopping or even slowing down and revs up the hill towards us. I had two seconds to get Tim out of the way of the car before it blasted past us. He didn’t slow down to go by us and certainly didn’t stop but powered by on his merry way. I wished him a puncture. Actually I didn’t, but I should have done. It was all over so quickly we weren’t even shocked. Another two seconds and he was half a mile up the road.

23rd June More swimming, pics taken as if we need proof! The drive cut-back finally complete. Only problem is the size of the bonfire has increased by a third with all our cuttings. Tim only has a few toys and I mislaid one of them yesterday. A Kang rubber chew thing inside an old Argyll pattern sock of DH’s was a favourite and I went out into the garden to throw it for him. (Tim, not DH) First throw, huge effort to get it across the grass and make him run – and the wretched thing flew vertically instead of horizontally, tangled in the branches of a 60 foot tree and stayed there.
I like French farmers in this region. I don’t know any of course, but I like their farming methods, which I see all around me. Instead of the arable-livestock divide I’m used to back home, here there is often a mix of the two. They don’t stick to one or two main crops either. I’ve mentioned the asparagus, but barley grows on the hillsides and there are potatoes, sweet corn, courgettes and sunflowers growing along the valley bottom next to the field where the cattle wander about. The soil is very fertile. Plums, quinces, cherries and walnut trees grow in the hedges and fields. I’ve been picking up the green walnuts that drop off in the faint hope that I may have some walnuts in the autumn. The deer get the plums and fallen cherries and quinces, and then we see deer shit full of cherry stones. The river seems empty of fish this year. I haven’t seen a single flash of a tail. The fishermen have been too greedy.

Wednesday 24th June Deep blue skies continue. The water level in the river goes down daily, as you can see by the little vid. I’ve cleared more undergrowth from around the base of the tree and have discovered two more chunks of fallen trees. There was a huge storm in 1999 that brought down mature trees all along the valley. I always knew of one trunk still in the river, but now I know the whole trunk is still here – in three chunks. Oddly enough, when we did our Lapeyrouse circuit, we noticed that trees had been felled all along the river. We assumed local land owners wanted to stock up their wood piles. Or maybe people who know more about trees than we do decided they were too old and needed to come down. Last year in the same spot we heard a terrific tearing crack and looked round in time to see a major branch fall about seventy feet, crashing through lower branches as it went down. Back in 1999 a walnut tree came down in the storm and narrowly missed the mill; had it fallen to the north instead of to the east, the mill would have been in ruins and we would probably not be here enjoying it. Since then two more walnut trees and a pine have been taken down as a precaution against just such a disaster. Trees can be dangerous.

25th June Nothing but good weather to report. Cloudless blue skies from morn to evening and so hot we spent a good deal of the middle of the day in the shade. Some nights we have decided against a BBQ because it has been too hot to stand/sit in the sun next to a BBQ, but by 6pm it there was some cloud cover and it was cooler. By the time we sat down on the bolly to eat, there was a mini plague of what we call flying ants. One crash landed in my salad, loads of them speckled the surface of the pool and I swept them up off the bolly. No idea where they came from or why. DH turned on the hose and showered them away. An hour later, no sign of them. All the insects in France seem twice and three times their normal size. A hornet of some kind, about an inch and a half long, landed on the saucer of freshly grated Parmesan cheese at lunch time. I recoiled in horror and left it to Dh to step in and remove saucer plus hornet. He came back minus the hornet; said he nudged it away with a finger (gulp!) and it flew off into the bushes. There is another type that buzzes around but rarely lands, but when it whizzes by your ear it is startling. We’ve nicknamed them the B57s in honour of the large bomber planes.

28th June Nothing to report as good weather continues and the heat is such that we get up early and walk Tim, then spend the day creeping from one spot of shade and coolness to another until about four or five o’clock when it becomes more bearable. I’ve been taking stock of the books I’ve read while here; First of all it was JoJo Moyes One Plus One. Then The Salt Bride on Kindle (Lucinda Brant) followed by Joanna Trollope Balancing Act, Lee Child 61 Hours in spite of the fact that I’d read it before. The Abduction by John Grisham, Not Dead Yet by Peter James (on Kindle) Jason Foss When the Dust Settles (also on Kindle).

We’ve been watching the unpleasant scenes at Calais and thinking we’ll have to run that gauntlet soon.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Relaxing on holiday

The good weather crept back in over the last few days and yesterday was a scorcher. Today looks like being the same, so I've been out with Tim and done a bit of cutting by the stream so he can get into the river without all those horrid ticks (tiques en Francais) latching on to him. I've also hoovered the whole top floor of the mill, shaken the bedroom rugs and am sitting here feeling very pleased with myself. The curtains are shutting out the sunshine but the windows are open and the warm air is flowing freely. Oh yes, and the washer is doing sterling service with the sheets which will be hung out and dry by 2pm.
Small things amuse small minds, I hear you cry. Well, yes, but then this is a very relaxing holiday. No stress beyond keeping Tim indoors while the farmers come and cut their asparagus because if we don't he'll run out and bark at them - and he's found that the gate stops him going in one direction, but if he runs around the back of the mill there's open access to the lane and the asparagus field. Sometimes they bring their dogs with them; the first day there was a stand off with a young black and white collie who looked ready for a fight.  Maybe they would have played, but the girl seemed alarmed by the confrontation. I don't know if it was
because her dog would fight, she thought mine would, or (more likely) because she didn't want them gallivanting all over the carefully tended asparagus plants. It is back breaking work, harvesting the asparagus. Spread the legs, bend at the hips and prod down into the furrows with what looks like a chisel but is some kind of a hook that slices the white shoots about nine inches below ground. They come almost every other day and go away with baskets and buckets full. No wonder asparagus is expensive. Treat yourself, buy some, cook it with garlic butter and think of French farmers as you eat it!

I've included two views from our walk yesterday. The top one is the Gite Rural where I presume you could stay for a holiday and the second is the field full of poppies we passed on our way home. We explored the first mile or so of a VTT otherwise known (I think) as a chemin or path but I decided I was improperly dressed to proceed. I needed stronger shoes as the grass was ankle high and wet beneath the trees and also I had bare arms and the flies were just waiting for an unsuspecting victim. Fly spray, and strong shoes required before I go back!

Sunday, 14 June 2015

We have a Pool!

Ironically, now the good weather has gone, the pool is open and almost ready for bathing. We've had a couple of days of thunder storms and plodding about in wellies and waterproofs but the forecast is for scorching days again starting on Wednesday. Two small frogs had to be rescued from floating gently round and round the pool on the first morning. DH's tally of mice captured and killed is now standing at six and we have not heard the patter of tiny feet nor the clang of a mouse-trap for several days, maybe over a week. At least it seems to do the job instantaneously as I haven't heard a single squeak of surprise or pain. 

Local dogs visit and play with Tim. One is Baloo, a rather large black and white collie who lives at the first wooden house up the hill. The other is a brown labrador type who is only interested in plunging in and out of the pond and the river. The other visitor is rarer but easily the most playful; an Alsatian cross of some kind I would guess who doesn’t wear a collar. He is great fun and motors around like a motorcyclist on a race track.

We’re off to Vergt in the morning as we’ve run out of food and I need to get some Activyl Tick Plus at the Pharmacie. Not chuffed that the surgery gave me the Activyl that deals with fleas instead of the right stuff, so poor Tim has been getting a tick almost every day, and we have to manually extract it which isn’t easy. Damn things don’t always come out whole. At least they sell it in pharmacies here. Back home it’s on prescription only.

Friday, 12 June 2015

A Change in the Weather

The good weather broke yesterday with thunder, lightning and heavy rain storms. From pic a to pc b in 5 minutes flat, and then the rain came sweeping in. This morning it is still raining, so we’re in for a wet couple of days. Makes a change from the blistering heat of the last fortnight. Hopefully it will take all the pollen out of the air because even Tim started sneezing yesterday. We had to bring him indoors before he stopped. Only DH is immune – not a single sneeze from him.

Partly because of the heat, which was excessive and had us cowering indoors some days, and partly because of Tim, we haven’t been out and about in the locality. He’s a good, affectionate dog but the one thing he will not do is walk calmly on the lead. However long it is, he wants to be a yard further on and investigate every smell in double quick time. He can lift me off my feet with no effort, none of which would go down well if we took him to town or anywhere there are crowds. Much simpler to walk him off-lead around the hay fields, now cut, or do the local hour-long monastery circuit where only the odd car is a worry. The other thing is that we’ve been coming here for 15 years and we’ve been to most of the local beauty spots, so there isn’t a huge incentive to drive anywhere. The downside is that it doesn’t leave me with many photographs for my blog! I may have to raid my expansion drive for pictures taken in previous years.

On the other hand, work on my re-write of my Viking story is going well. I’m experimenting with first person POV for the female character. In the previous version, now withdrawn from sale, I never gave her POV at all, which was probably a big mistake. I gave her actions and let those speak for her. That method was not a success; no one liked her and as a result no one liked the book. The beauty of Kindle is that I can take it down and re-write it, then publish it again. So, upward and onward!

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Hot weather

The hot weather goes on. Yesterday there was a breeze, which made it much more pleasant to be out and about. The storms that were forecast for today have now moved back to the coming Thursday. All the hay has been cut, dried, turned and baled so now we have 17 bales taller than me in the field, and we can walk around the perimeter without fearing that we are doing damage. Tim loves it - all those new smells to investigate. I love it for that reason and also because my hay fever has vanished as if it had never been.

Rafa couldn't do it, Andy couldn't do it, so it's all down to Stan Wawrinka this afternoon. I hope he can succeed. Until then, I'll be checking The CRAIGSMUIR AFFAIR  one last time.

Friday, 5 June 2015

Hot Days

The time is 7 55am and I'm sitting here writing my blog with all the windows and doors open and the sun is beating down. Goodness knows what the outside temperature got up to yesterday - we stayed indoors where the living room temperature rose to 26 degrees C. This morning it is 22 degrees. Consider that when we arrived it was 16-17 degrees....and that the mill has three foot thick stone walls. Wi Fi is only available in the living room, (or downstairs in the mill room) because the walls are too thick. Evidently the floor is not quite so strong!

The farmers work early, knock off in the middle of the day and start again about seven in the evening and yesterday they had my sympathy because it was still too hot to sit out even then. I felt some sympathy for the tennis players, too. Though I have to say that Serena gave a most convincing display of being about to faint away until she needed to hit a convincing shot and then all her reflexes kicked in and the most complicated shot was executed with ease.

I have been diligently working away for a couple of hours every morning on The CRAIGSMUIR AFFAIR and have reached the last stages of publication via Kindle. Things appear to be going well and as long as the Table of Contents comes up as I expect, then I'm done. Publication Day is the 20th July.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Howling gales

Howling gales blowing down greenhouses back home while I enjoy wonderful sunshine here in the Dordogne. I ought to feel guilty, but I don't because we're highly likely to get the same winds at some point in the next month or so.

The farmers are busy cutting hay here, so the air was full of pollen yesterday. From a distance it looks as if the tractor is surrounded by a golden cloud and very romantic until you get up close. The tractor comes within twenty feet of the house at one point so for me it is imperative to dart inside and close all the doors and windows. This time I forgot to get the washing in as well, so had to dash out again and clear the line of a the few garments that were there. Then we stood inside and watched someone else working hard for a couple of hours while the kites circled overhead and dived down on unfortunate creatures whose home was being destroyed.

Fortunately while we were in Bergerac I visited the Pharmacie next to the Intermarche, bid everyone Bonjour, which is very important in France and in my halting French explained that I had hay fever - les rhume des foins. The lady guided me through purchasing tablets and eye drops and this is the third day I've taken the pills and they work very well. The itchy eyes are almost worse than the sneezing, so I'm very glad she guided me to the right products. I don't get this in England unless the pollen levels are exceedingly high, but here I do, every year.

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Time flies

Here we are at Sunday again, our third here and it hardly feels like that at all. You may find it hard to believe but I was up and out with the dog by half past six in the morning yesterday; also today, but today I cheated and we both came back to our respective beds after he had relieved himself. Twenty minutes past eight we finally decided it was time to rise and shine. Consequently it is ten past eleven by the time I sit down at my computer. Time flies! 

The mousetrap went off with a clatter while we watched tennis yesterday. So that's mouse number two sent on its way. A third one has nicked the dog biscuit without setting off the trap, so no doubt this war will go on for some time.

The forecast was for overcast and cloudy today, so we had planned to drive down to Bergerac. But the sun is shining and it is very warm, so we are still at the mill. Tomorrow the forecast is for rain, so we will see. Maybe tomorrow it will be Bergerac.

Meanwhile, we'll keep watching the wildlife around us. Dragon flies are hatching on the pond, hanging over the  water in jewelled clusters. Tiny frogs abound, literally, in the grass and reeds. DH says he is constantly seeing them leap out of the way of the tractor when he cuts the grass. The little one on the right is hovering on the top of the water, with his shadow on the stone beneath and he has adopted excellent camouflage. He looks exactly like the stone beneath him.  If I hadn't seen him jump, I'd never have spotted him. (Sorry, no pun intended.)

The squirrel has made two appearances, both times galloping over the house roof and then down to the bolly rails. Our wildlife camera has recorded two white eyes in the darkness, presumably Monsieur Reynard doing his rounds. No more sightings of the coypu, though something is leaving tracks into and out of the pond. There are definite trails now. Mallards, perhaps as we often see them fly off in the early morning, and Tim has routed them out from the river.

Friday, 29 May 2015

Death in the house

No need to get alarmed. The death I refer to was a mouse, caught in a mousetrap last night. DH set out the trap, not me. I'm far too squeamish to do that. I may not be happy about them running about indoors, and I know they're a health risk, but that's me. Squeamish.

We've had two splendid days with clear blue skies and full strength sunshine, and today there is a fine cloud layer and hazy sunshine. They've begun to cut the hay around us, and for me they can't do it soon enough. Once it's baled I might be able to walk out whenever I please without sneezing and wanting to scratch my eyes.

We've discovered a new way of exercising Tim. We ride the little bike up and down the drive with him running beside it. He barked at it the first couple of times but he's stopped that now. It's an easy walk around the property now all the grass has had a second cut - almost like lawns! I can walk around in my slippers after the dew has gone. The cows stare at us across the fence, and Tim barks at them. I'm trying to stop him, because they're awfully big beasts and they have calves to defend. No way do I want one of them chasing us across the field.

PS Remember if you click on the pics, you get a larger version!

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Houses and homes

There are some very attractive houses in this region. Some of them make me briefly envious, Some just make me smile. We have a whole range around us, from the chateaux with the guardian dogs, live, who race along the fence barking until you are safely out of their sight, right down through the small farmhouse to the caravan in the field, and even better, the caravan on stilts.
If you build in the local style, and some do, then a square tower rising out of the body of the building is a must, and the 4-sided triangle roof can be seen peeking out of the forests for miles around. (I'm sure there's a name for a 4-sided triangle, which obviously isn't a triangle, but I don't know what it is.) I'll add a few pics of examples over the next few days.

Some look very old, and it is easy to imagine they've been here from medieval days. I have no doubt they have mice too, because they're built of rough stone which makes it easy for those little feet to climb and get in through the roof. I know snakes live in lofts - we hear horror stories from our rellies in Australia where people are very wary of entering loft spaces because they never know what they will encounter. Last night when I was drifting off to sleep I imagined a war one in the loft above me - mice versus snakes and lizards, and it made me feel sorry for the mice.

 I encountered one in the laundry room yesterday. It shot across the floor and out where the water pipe comes in through the wall. DH has caught one on his wildlife camera while it was running across the living room floor during the night. Odd that Tim doesn't seem to have noticed them yet.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

The Mice are back!

Roland Garros has started today and I'm watching selected matches courtesy of UK ITV 4 relayed here to France. Technology is wonderful!

The weather is still not brilliant. We get snatches of sunshine and relax but then it clouds over again. I saw a deer in the field yesterday, around midday, no less. We both saw a fox running across the road as we walked Tim, and DH was startled by the appearance of a mouse almost in front of his nose as he sat at the big desk! The little blighters have had a go at breaking into Tim's sack of biscuits so we've put half in a red metal container - I think it is actually a bread bin - and the other half safely locked in the boot of the car. It seems you can't avoid mice if you live in farm land in an old house with cracks and crannies where they can squeeze in. The other day as I sat reading I heard the click of claws in the loft above the balcony room, but it may have been the lizards - though I don't think lizards squeak. I imagined battles going on up there - mice against lizards. DH assures me the main loft is cut off from the new loft above the balcony room, but he knows very well that mice and lizards will squeeze in anywhere.

Finished reading JoJo Moyes The One plus One - enjoyed it. Also read a Joanne Trollop since we got here - Balancing Act, but I honestly now cannot remember what it was about. It obviously made a great impression on me though I enjoy her style while I'm reading it.

The picture is one DH caught of me whistling for Tim - and the clothes will tell you how warm it is!

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Hay Fever

A brilliant sunny day yesterday, so not much work was done, but I did get a wash load dried, ironed and put away. There's not much work involved in putting  a washing machine on, and apart from that, we downed tools and soaked up the sunshine.
 Today it is me who has the odd problem - one of my eyes has swelled. Not the eye but the socket and lid. It's either a reaction to pollen, of which there is a lot drifting about on the wind, or some tiny insect has bitten me.

I shall be relieved when the farmer has cut all his hay because only then will my nose stop prickling and filling up. In England I don't suffer from hay fever, but here, I do. The cutting is partially done. I watched the farmer cart away about a dozen plastic wrapped bales this morning while I gave Tim his early morning walk around nine o'clock. That was quite late for Tim, but then I'd been out earlier, too, for he woke me just as it was getting light with a plea to go outside. Every bird in the locality was singing in the greyness and I was glad Tim is mostly white, for he showed up in the gloom no matter how far he wandered!

The final edit of The Craigsmuir Affair is ongoing. I have cut chunks of "local character" which gets in the way of the story. I don't suppose anyone would be interested in it but me.There are no signs of it being available as pre-order yet on Amazon. There must be more I have to do before that happens.
The irises are blooming everywhere around the lake and nearby damp fields. They look beautiful.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Third Day

Tim has survived his cut foot and had the time of his life today when two  farm dogs? - local dogs? turned up and played with him and in the river at the bottom of the garden. They stayed all afternoon and tonight he's flat out asleep.
It's good for him to socialise and it was interesting to watch him go from aggressive Get-off-my-patch to hesitant-can-we-play to full on play. We cut some more grass  and pulled up a few weeds from the patio while all this doggy fun went on.
Yesterday was dh's birthday and I promised him I'd cook. I did, but it was a disaster.  Isn't that typical? I think of all the meals I cook that are perfectly fine and then, when I want to please someone, everything goes wrong. Hangs head in shame. DH did the shopping and came back with a strange cut of beef. It may be a fine cut of beef, but it is not one I have seen back home. Still, it was listed as Beef steak. Perhaps the noisette oil I used was a mistake. Or the couscous I thought was an original idea is just not meant to go with salad and steak. The  wine was white and sparkly but sweeter than we expected. One lives and learns, and the moral of the story is take a French-English dictionary to the supermarche, and don't try odd combination for a special meal.

The weather is not very nice - damp, grey and threatening rain most of the time, but we're hoping for a better day tomorrow. We're inside tonight with the doors and windows closed, but of course we are here mid-May rather than mid-July. The good weather will come, I know it. Farmers have cut the first hay already but the meadows before they do so are a joy to see, so full of wild flowers. I remember fields like this during my childhood, but we rarely see them today in England..

PS Our meal tonight, cooked by DH, was fine. I may just let the maestro take over the kitchen. I'm not proud.

Friday, 15 May 2015

First Day

Our first full day at the mill was hot and sunny, and in spite of promising ourselves a quiet day after the long two day journey cooped up in the car, what do you think we did? DH got out the mini tractor and began cutting the grass while I unpacked and gave Tim several walks around the fields. I got involved in rescuing plant pots hidden in the long grass then divesting them of the slugs and snails that infested them. Both creatures are so much bigger than than the ones in my garden back home!

Then Tim ran over what turned out to be the base of a broken bottle in the long grass around the end of the mill pound. We only really noticed he was hurt when we got back to the bolly and saw he left a trail of wet red footprints with every step. .So then it was a case of holding his paw firm and tight (no evidence of glass in the paw) and try to stop the bleeding. For the rest of the day he went around with a gents hankie bound around the pad and a sock bound over to keep it in place.

The bandage lasted until this morning, when he greeted me at the side of the bed with this bundle flopping about at the end of his paw. When we got a look at it, the wound is clean and no sign of bleeding. The thing is now to try and keep him out of the muck and gravel. More easily said  than done.